Take the right position on Israel and you can raise 1/4 million, Senate candidate is advised

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Michelle Nunn
Michelle Nunn

Everyone’s sending this around today. It’s part of a fundraising memo for Michelle Nunn’s campaign for Senate in Georgia, published at Vox. Say the right thing on Israel and you can raise a quarter-million dollars.


Screen_shot_2014-07-28_at_1.42.54_pmMatthew Yglesias says we all know about this, but journalists are inhibited to describe the importance of this money because it’s an “anti-semitic trope.”

To anyone who’s familiar with Democratic Party fundraising — particularly for non-incumbent underdogs, who typically have trouble raising money — this won’t be too surprising.

Jewish donors are very important to Democratic Party finances, some of these donors have strongly held hawkish views on Israel, and the financial clout of AIPAC is the stuff of legend. At the same time, talk of rich Jews throwing their financial muscle around to influence policy in favor of Israel touches far too many anti-semitic tropes to be regularly mentioned in political discourse. But the concrete world of political fundraising doesn’t leave a ton of time for beating around the bush, so we get a little window here into how it looks to the finance people: if Nunn wants to maximize her donations, she needs to take the right stance.

Right. Everyone knows it, no one can talk about it. It’s been estimated that on the Democratic side at the congressional level on up, Jews account for half to two-thirds of the funding.

Now here is the same story told in a different way. Tim Mak at the Daily Beast asked some leftleaning congress-people why they weren’t reflecting the grassroots outrage over Gaza:

Democrats, when asked a question about Israeli operations in Gaza, had two standard responses: irritation, or else a statement of their broad support of Israel, without going into specifics. It was as if the very mention of Israel turned the question into a hostile interview.

“Look, man, I’m a politician, with multiple constituencies. Why should I alienate one just so that you can write a story?” Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison angrily told The Daily Beast. Ellison, a stalwart progressive, was the first Muslim-American elected to Congress….

Sen. Bernie Sanders, a darling of the left who identifies as a democratic socialist, was curt. His tone changed suddenly when the topic shifted from the Veterans Administration bill that he had been shepherding through Congress to Israel’s operation in Gaza.

“That’s not where my mind is right now,” he told the Beast.

Democratic Rep. Sandy Levin said he was on his way to a meeting and didn’t have time to discuss the issue. (He did, however, stop for another reporter, who asked about transportation funding.) When Rep. Krysten Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona, was approached, she simply repeated that she supports the right of Israel to defend itself.

There has been essentially no congressional criticism of Israel’s actions in Gaza.

As I wrote six years ago when an acquaintance at Harvard was scolding Stephen Walt to me for his alleged naivete in having written The Israel Lobby:

[Acquaintance’s scold:] “Walk around Harvard and the Kennedy School, what are the names on the buildings? Taubman, Rubenstein, Belfer, Weiner. Where do you think the money is coming from in academia?”

This is a reminder that you cannot honestly describe the formation of Middle East policy without acknowledging that Jews are principals in the establishment, and Jewish wealth is a significant factor in public life.

Walt wasn’t naive; he was brave, he had tenure and decided that the cost to his ambition was worth his freedom to state his beliefs. Maybe Yglesias and other MSM journalists should emulate him now that another 1000 Palestinians have been slaughtered.

Andrew Sullivan agrees the subject is important, and says the internet has liberated us to say so.

not so long ago, anyone saying that Jewish donor money made an even-handed approach to Israel-Palestine a pretty dead letter would be deemed ipso facto an anti-Semite.

More to the point, such a view would not be allowed into print in any mainstream outlet. It would be regarded as an anti-Semitic trope – even if it were factually true.It’s as if a libel law did not allow for the truth as a defense!..

It’s also a matter of record, I think, that there is no way I could have written or published anything along these lines before the blogging era. Having my own space to think out loud, outside the parameters of an existing institution, without all the caution around the subject that was baked deep in Washington journalism, was critical to my changing views in response to changing facts. The intimidation had an effect. It was designed to. 

The good news is that America is finding a way to talk about this, and American Jews, confident and unthreatened, are participating in the conversation.

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Keith Ellison’s reaction was stunning, but I guess that just proves your point.

This is why I say, “Thank god for Mondoweiss.” And I believe that increasingly Mondoweiss is speaking to a constituency beyond the choir, influencing journalists, media and others.

Former Biden aide Jeff Connaughton has a great deal to say about the importance of Jewish donors to Democratic candidates in his book The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins.

Can’t she get a turtleneck or cowl-neck, and hide that hickey?

I always love the way they say “Jewish Community” as if the contributions are Temple-tested and Rabbi-approved.